Soon, (a relative term) Outlander fans will be making a weekly appointment with Starz to watch their favorite couple Jamie and Claire Frazer navigate the salons, ballrooms, and dining rooms of the French Court of Louis the XV. The picture Starz painted of the Frasers’ new life in the first Season 2 trailer was visually far and away from muted and earthy Scotland. Being a curious soul, I found myself wanting to know more about life in Versailles.
The story goes that Louis’ great grandfather, Louis the XIV, worked for thirty years to make the palace opulent as recompense for a childhood of relative poverty (it’s said he slept on tattered sheets and his mother had to pawn the crown jewels). Versailles was literally built around an old hunting cabin and eventually was half-a-million square feet, had 700 rooms , 67 staircases. and 6000 paintings. No surface was left unadorned. Gilded paneling, crown molding, brocaded or flocked wall coverings, allegorical paintings of Greek gods, floors patterned with parquet or colored tiles were found in every room. Everything from furniture to finishes was embellished. It was a visual feast.
Louis the XV was said to be a bit less into the pomp and ceremony his great grandfather seemed to enjoy, but still, on a daily basis anywhere from 3,000 to 10, 000 people were in attendance at the palace. In an effort to gain control over the nobility, the King often required them to live with him. Attending the King took them far from the daily operations of their estates and put them under his watchful eye.
A courtier is defined as a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage or a person who seeks favor by flattery, charm, etc. This certainly described life for the courtiers of Louis the XV. Currying the king’s favor was serious and tricky, courtiers needed to tread carefully because the King could make them or break them. Nobles needed his permission to do basically anything, so remaining in his good graces was vital.
…a very varied society with a rigid hierarchy. Some were there by birthright, others by social obligation, others out of self-interest or curiosity, and others still to earn their living. The high-ranking nobility were often present, currying the favours of the master of Versailles.
…Among the courtiers, those who held a role were said to be “established” at Court. These roles, either inherited or purchased, often very dearly, corresponded to a function or office.
… Living quarters in the palace were also highly sought after. They avoided much travelling back and forth and provided a place of retreat for those moments when one was not at Court.
To stay in a state of royal grace required being up on the latest rumors and news. Information was power and the court was where everything was happening, kind of like the Outlander fandom x1000. #KingSam and #QueenCait These folks lived by a very strict code of etiquette and adherence to the Monarch’s whims. Whether it be it how to sit properly, knowing the latest dance steps or wearing the latest fashions, being a courtier was serious business and a serious competition. With so many in attendance gaining the King’s attention was no easy task.
“beauty or wit, rivaled with dazzling finery to attract the Monarch’s attention.”
Hence, the need, as Outlander’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach says, for everyone to look like “a butterfly”. Enter Jamie and Claire, a tall red-headed Scots decked out with plaid and his English rose dressed in a blood red gown. You just know that Terry and her crew will have created a dress worthy of the King’s attention!
There is a lot more to know about this world and I’ll be writing these little tidbits to help satisfy my curiosity and maybe enriching my watching experience. Hope you’ll join me as I explore!
17 thoughts on “Jamie and Claire Fraser…Courtiers”
When Louis XV was a boy the court nobles conspired against him and his mother so that they fled to Spain I think, but when he returned and regained his kingdom to prevent conspiracies and betrayals, Louis XV, imposed these lavish dances to control nobles.
I’ve wrote a short story about, but in spanish, I’m afraid that if I publish it at my blog you will have to put it into googles’s translator. Kiss. Barbara, from Argentine.
My blog is
So much to explore and learn!
I must say that my comment was about Louis XIV also known as the sun-king, le Roi Soleil. Kiss. Barbara.
I will be along with the ride! What a fascinating world.
Louis XIV was the great-grandfather of Louis XV, not his father.
Fixed it I thought!
Checked my copy says great grandfather
Visited Versailles 18 months ago. Very “over the top.” The frescos on the ceiling each told a story, usually a myth so each room has a name. Too much for me but I did like the gardens. Lovely fountains and statues, also mostly Ancient Greek design.
Thank you. Love reading the history.
Very interesting! Can’t wait to learn more right along with you!
Thanks for sharing! Love the history and can’t wait to learn more!
Thank you for taking the time to share the information that you learn…so interesting😀
Very interesting as usual. Love the historical information, for it always makes a book/story much more relevant to me. I will be following you eagerly, and waiting with great anticipation for Season 2. It really looks amzing from the little bits we’ve seen!
A little late, but I just found your blog through Terry D. ‘s twitter about the costumes. Once I read it and I saw the latest picture of Claire in a blue dress that blended into the background of the chairs and tapestries I got what you were talking about. Thanks for this great blog. I will have to go and read all the ones I missed.
Thanks and I’d for you to follow the blog! Just push the follow button!
I just discovered your blog and must tell you it is wonderful.It informative,insightful and very well written. I have been a great fan of the books for 23 years and now I must admit a bit obsessive over the TV series. Thank you!
thank you! hope you pushed the follow button!